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Florida Agency Broke, Contractors Unpaid

By: Valerie Lacy
By: Valerie Lacy

Frank Sheffield is a private attorney. Every now and then he handles cases where the client cannot afford his services.

After he closes a case, he bills the state of Florida for the cost at a reduced rate, but lately those bills just keep piling up.

Frank Sheffield, Attorney, said, "We're still doing the work, we're still doing the billing, but we're not getting paid and we have, as it sits here today, no idea when we are going to get paid."

Sheffield says the state owes his firm more than $250,000. The Justice Administrative Commission, which is contracted to pay his bills, has just announced it's out of money and won't have more until December 16.

Florida criminal attorneys are asking a judge to force the state to fork up the cash as agreed in the contract. Meanwhile, court cases continue and attorneys have no idea when or if they'll get paid.

Alexander Dombrowsky, Criminal Trial Attorney, said, "That's the million dollar question, no one really knows what's going to happen. I mean, we can't very well just stop representing people. We took an oath as an attorney to ‘delay no man's cause for lucre or malice.’ If we don't get paid we cannot ethically ‘not’ represent those folks."

Attorneys say this will only get worse unless the Florida Legislature steps in to hand over more money.

At the time of this report the JAC had not returned our calls. Attorneys say it’s not the agency's fault. They lay blame on the Legislature, which they say never gave the JAC enough money to operate.


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